As any Cowboys fan knows by now, the defense is going to be missing some players in September due to suspensions. Right now, two players have confirmed bans and two more are facing likely penalties. How might these suspensions impact the Cowboys roster decisions between now and Week One?
Here is a quick rundown of what we know right now regarding these suspensions:
- David Irving, DL - Suspended four games for violating the NFL's policy on the use of performance-enhancing drugs. Will return Week 5.
- Damontre Moore, DE - Suspended two games for violating the substance-abuse policy. Will return Week 3.
- Nolan Carroll, CB - Facing a likely two-game ban for a DWI arrest in May.
- Damien Wilson, LB - Will almost surely be disciplined under the personal conduct policy for his arrest on assault charges earlier this month. Wilson's situation is by far the cloudiest and hard to predict.
Dallas will still have a 53-man roster even without these players. That means some of our current training camp participants should make the team for at least a few weeks. Who stands to benefit from this situation?
Clearly, the defensive line has taken the biggest hit with both Irving and Moore out. They still have eight guys to work with; DeMarcus Lawrence, Benson Mayowa, Charles Tapper, Taco Charlton at defensive end, and then Maliek Collins, Tyrone Crawford, Cedric THornton, and Stephen Paea at tackle. That's certainly enough to get through a few games. Keep in mind that linebacker Kyle Wilber can also play some defensive end.
Dallas could use the roster spots on some extra depth and rotation pieces. Prospects Lenny Jones and Lewis Neal have had some positive reports at defensive end. There are also seventh-round picks Joey Ivie and Jordan Carrell to consider at defensive tackle. The Cowboys could give any of these guys some extra weeks on the roster while waiting for Irving and Moore to come back.
However, with eight guys still in play and Wilber as an emergency option, Dallas could use those roster spots elsewhere. They don't have to stick to nine or ten defensive linemen as if satisfying a quota; the decisions should come down to talent and ability to contribute.
At cornerback, Nolan Carroll's expected absence will likely be filled by second-round pick Chidobe Awuzie. Fellow rookie Jourdan Lewis should also be in the mix, likely rotating in and perhaps even passing Awuzie before we get to Week One. The Cowboys shouldn't have to make any moves to cover themselves at the top of the CB depth chart.
Like with the defensive line, the effect of Carroll's suspension will be felt at the bottom of the roster. Rookie Marquez White will almost certainly make the team now, if he wasn't already. The Cowboys can at least postpone making a decision on him for a few weeks if they have any thoughts of trying to get him to the practice squad.
The major beneficiary could be Leon McFadden. The former third-round pick in 2013 played in nine games for Dallas last year due to injuries with Orlando Scandrick and Morris Claiborne. With Nolan Carroll gone, McFadden could stick around a player with league experience and some familiarity in the Cowboys system. It may not last beyond a couple of weeks, but it's better than nothing.
We may have already seen the major fallout of the Damien Wilson incident with the return of veteran Justin Durant. Dallas re-signed the 31-year-old linebacker just a few weeks after Wilson's arrest.
Durant is capable of playing all three positions and could start at Wilson's expected role of SAM linebacker. If someone else gets that job, Durant provides valuable depth anywhere you need him.
Given its severity and recency, Wilson's case and any NFL investigation may not be resolved by the start of the season. It's possible that Damien will be with the team in Week One but then wind up suspended sometime during the year. It could even drag out into next offseason and a suspension in 2018.
The timing of Durant's return may have been coincidental; giving a veteran some time off and bringing him back just before the start of camp. Perhaps they were already planning to make that call before Wilson's arrest. In that case, a roster spot may have opened up for someone we're not so familiar with. Prospect John Lotulelei has been the most talked-about of the unknown linebackers.
While I have almost zero concern at this point for Elliott actually getting suspended, we have to mention the signing of Ronnie Hillman and the potential impact of something happening with Zeke. Some have tried to suggest that the Hillman signing was due to the Cowboys' concerns about losing Elliott to start the year.
I don't see that at all. I think adding Hillman has more to do with the departure of Lucky Whitehead; a speed player who can run some of the plays as Lucky and also provide you a kick return option. It's also related to the release of injured RB Jahad Thomas, who was a similar type of player. Hillman can give them some of what Lance Dunbar used to, which neither Alfred Morris or Rod Smith can offer.
If anyone would benefit from an Elliott suspension it's probably Morris. I don't see him sticking around as a third RB behind Zeke and Darren McFadden, but he could be more valuable if he'd the number-two back for a while. You can justify his lack of special teams ability in that case.
Should Gregory’s Potential Reinstatement Alter Cowboys Draft Plan?
A lot has happened with the Dallas Cowboys roster in a short period of time leading up to the 2018 NFL Draft. Just four days away now, the Cowboys are still adjusting to life without Dez Bryant, and may be preparing to welcome back Randy Gregory this season.
After months of speculation about the Cowboys' exiled pass rusher turning his life around for the better, the end result may be Gregory triumphantly returning to the field and filling a considerable position of need in Dallas.
Through Gregory's numerous absences from the Cowboys, the team has searched for temporary fixes at his right defensive end spot until drafting Taco Charlton in the first round last year. In his rookie season, Charlton looked much better at left end behind DeMarcus Lawrence than he ever did rushing against left tackles.
ALERT: Sources offer me very positive reports on #Cowboys DE @RandyGregory_4 coming bid for NFL reinstatement, as @BobbyBeltTX also notes. Randy Gregory has a chance to be a terrific story.
Randy Gregory can beat left tackles with speed and bend, but also has more career suspensions than he does sacks. Finding another defensive end with these traits in the draft could put the Cowboys defensive line over the top, but doing so with this year's class could cost them a pick better spent elsewhere.
Of course, this will be the case if Gregory does complete a comeback that the Cowboys have been understandably quiet about until recently. Stephen Jones has said the plan for Gregory is to apply for reinstatement following the draft.
The Cowboys "smart" approach of rebuilding their front four on defense as if Gregory would never see the field again has yielded them plenty of success - at all but the spot Gregory would line up at. DeMarcus Lawrence, David Irving, Maliek Collins, and Taco Charlton should all inspire hope for this unit in 2018.
This is more than we were ever able to say about forgotten defenders like Benson Mayowa, who remains a free agent RDE.
The same can be said about prospects like Harold Landry or Marcus Davenport. At this point though, it feels like a priority draft pick spent at DE is a sudden sign of nervousness about Randy Gregory's return by the Cowboys.
This team has plenty of depth to deploy Rod Marinelli's patented "waves" of pass rushers, finally entering a season with an elite talent at DE too. The opportunity to have DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory attack opposing quarterbacks from opposite sides is a reality the Cowboys are prepared to work towards.
They should do so looking elsewhere early in the draft, coming back to defensive end if a developmental player they like falls.
Cowboys Quarterback is playing Moneyball
Money talks, and no one talks louder than the Dallas Cowboys. It’s hard to find a more affordable Pro Bowl player than Dak Prescott. A former fourth-round pick from Mississippi State, Prescott is only scheduled to make around $680,000 in 2018. It’s only his third year, but it may be his most important when it comes to his future with the Cowboys.
When a team drafts its franchise quarterback, they usually only get about two seasons to prove they’re "the guy."
Every year, teams draft someone, usually in the first round, with hopes that he'll be their sought after franchise quarterback. However, by being drafted so high, there’s little margin for error afforded to them.
In Dak Prescott’s case, being drafted outside the first round, he wasn’t expected to contribute near as much in his first two seasons as he has. A day-one starter for the then injured Tony Romo gave him his opportunity and he has made the most of it.
In two seasons, Dak Prescott has a 22-10 record, made the playoffs and Pro Bowl, completed 65.2% of his passes and has added a new dimension in the Cowboys offense thanks to his mobility in and out of the pocket. However, I wouldn’t be the first to tell you that his year two wasn’t as good as his year one was. Prescott lost four more games, completed fewer passes and more interceptions in year two.
To be fair, some of his issues attributed to the injury of Tyron Smith, Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension and many of his receivers dropping more passes than we’ve previously seen. These issues will have to be cleaned up not only for the team, but for Dak Prescott’s future.
According to Spotrac.com, Dak Prescott’s market value today is around $25 million a year, which would make him among the most paid players in the league. In comparison, Kirk Cousins will be paid the most in the league at $28 million this year, while Aaron Rodgers will make $22 million.
So, the Cowboys quarterback's market value is among the best in the league.
Cowboys fans everywhere are rooting for him to succeed but year three will be crucial. If he can improve on his play from a year ago and keep winning games, he would likely see his extension happen sometime around his fourth season.
People have already seen Prescott at his highs and lows. Going into 2018 with a new receiving core, the return of Ezekiel Elliott and a new left guard will get rid of any excuses.
If Dak Prescott really is who he believes he is, and who fans know he can be, then the Cowboys have their quarterback. If not, then the search will continue.
Prescott should be plenty motivated to be the Cowboys quarterback for the present and the future. Also, he should be motivated by how much money he could get it.
It is a game, but it’s still a business. And C.R.E.A.M.
Cowboys Expected to Pick Up Byron Jones’ Fifth-Year Option
2018 should be a huge year for the Cowboys' 2015 first-round pick Bryon Jones. After being used all over the secondary, it seems like he'll finally find a position to stay next season. The announcement was made that heading into his contract year, Jones would be moved to the cornerback position full-time.
Fortunately for him, the Cowboys are now expected to pick up his fifth-year option. This may come as a surprise for Cowboys Nation, given there haven't been any hints by the franchise to do so. However, it definitely will be a wise decision.
The #Cowboys are expected to pick up the fifth-year option for Byron Jones, source said. That should give him $6.17M salary for 2019, one that is guaranteed for injury. The 2015 first-round pick should benefit from a full-time move to corner.
Since he played most of his snaps as a safety in 2017 (his third year in the league), Byron's fifth-option will be less expensive than one from a cornerback. This is obviously good news for the front office since it means more cap space will be available in 2019.
Hopefully, Byron finds success under the new secondary coach in Dallas, Kris Richard. With him moving to cornerback full-time, we might just see his incredible athleticism translate into consistent impact on the field.
Byron Jones said ever since Kris Richard was hired as the Cowboys' new DBs coach he talked about moving Byron back to CB. "I think it will be a good move for me and the team.
Jones has a ton of talent but bouncing from one position to another is not good for player progression. Heck, we talk about how hard it is for many talented prospects to come into the NFL and adapt, now imagine a player who's played in different spots in the secondary all through his first three years.
If #31 becomes a quality starting cornerback in 2018, the CB room will be loaded in Dallas.
Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis showed us they could become the next great CB duo for the Cowboys in their rookie seasons. Anthony Brown had a rough 2017, but can still play at a decent level if he's not asked to be CB1.
Add Byron Jones to the mix, and Cowboys Nation should be really comfortable with how this position will look next season.
Picking Byron's fifth-year option will be a wise decision for Dallas, and Cowboys fans should be happy about it. Let's go!
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